Ken and Teri Justice began physically building their long-time dream last year and today the construction phase of Cottonwood Farm is very nearly complete.
"My wife’s been a special education teacher in Newton County for more than 25 years now," said Ken Justice. "This is something that she wanted to enter into when she retired — something we could both be physically active and involved in."
Cottonwood Farm offers boarding, training, semi-private and private riding lessons and an event venue for children’s birthday parties.
"We have a nine-stall barn and the barn has a wash rack inside, a tack room and a full bath in case boarders want to shower and change before they go somewhere else," Justice said.
The farm’s indoor arena provides a 130-by-70-foot riding area with an observation deck that runs the whole length of the arena. Guests can book a birthday party of pony rides in the covered arena by simply calling a week or more in advance. The Justices also are allowing the Newton County Special Olympics Equestrian Team to practice and hold their final event in the arena.
"My wife and I are both Christians — we attend Solid Rock Baptist — so we want to also reach out to church groups for their activities like a volleyball game or something where they need a covered area in case of rain," Justice said.
Justice said many people who pass by the farm wonder about its double fence, which he said was for safety purposes and also to delineate a riding path.
In addition to the farm’s arena and obstacle course, its highly trained staff offers lessons for riders or their horses.
Riders learn English or Western riding styles from Jacel Galloway.
"She grew up on the horse farm in Pennsylvania called the Wishing Well Equestrian Center and has been in the lesson business all her life," Justice said of Galloway.
She has qualified for the American Eventing Championships Preliminary for two consecutive years.
Cottonwood’s other instructor, Jessica Strott, specializes in hunting and jumping.
"She’s got a lot of experience and expertise," Justice said.
Sarah Bowen helps work the horses and maintain the grounds; her mother Mary Bowen works as the office administrator at the farm.
Staff members also provide foundational training that improves the animal’s manageability and desensitize it to noises and movements.
The Justices’ future goals include possibly offering equine therapy to autistic or disabled riders, but for now, their mission is very simple.
"We want to keep all of our horses in shape and groomed and the facility looking nice," Justice said.
This summer the farm will host two summer riding camps for riders ages 6 to 16. Activities will include daily riding lessons, arts and crafts projects, games and lessons in horsemanship. Riders can bring their own horses to camp.
Camps will run from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. either June 14-18 or June 21-25. Call for more information or to register.